How to Avoid These Common Copywriting Mistakes That Kill Conversion Rates

Author: Johnathan Martinez

Johnathan Martinez

Johnathan Martinez

11 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

You’re probably not a multibillion-dollar company that has the luxury to focus more on branding than marketing. As such, your sales copy is of critical importance. Good copywriting can sell rocks, but bad copywriting can’t sell free gold. The quality of your copy has a direct impact on whether you sell nothing or whether you can’t keep up with demand from your frantic and loving customers.

Common mistakes that will kill your conversion rates

Even when people understand this, there are several common pitfalls that even “professional copywriters” fall into. Whether you’re writing the copy yourself or approving someone else’s work, I’d like to share with you several of the most common copywriting mistakes that will hamstring your conversions and stifle your growth.

1. Targeting the wrong audience

The first mistake on our list is fairly fundamental, and there’s not much to be said about it. It’s a common mistake, but one that’s relatively easy to remedy. Even if you’ve got the most perfect copy in the world with the greatest marketing and sales teams in the world, if you’re targeting the wrong people, you may not sell a thing. A preliminary to fixing your sales copy is to make sure that you have a very clear understanding of who your perfect prospect is

Literally, imagine them in your mind. You can even create a profile on paper of your perfect prospect so that they become real enough to imagine a conversation with them. There are two aspects you need to consider: 

Your prospect’s demographic 

A description of their state in life. You need to know their age, race, gender, occupation, income, family status, etc.

Your prospect’s psychographics

A description of what motivates them to action. You need to know their hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, doubts, and problems… Namely the problem that your product or service solves; the itch that you scratch.

Invest in the necessary tools

There are many tools at your disposal to make this happen. You can use Google Analytics, data brokers, ad networks, advertising plugins on your website, and of course, good old-fashioned surveys. Use any or all of these to get all of the relevant information about your prospect so you can better serve them.

This is where a certain prowess with your CRM is indispensable. If you don’t have a customer relationship manager, get one, and if it’s not being used to its full potential, you’re pouring money down the drain. Your customers are the lifeblood of your company. If you don’t have the manpower or budget for the #1 CRM on the market, there are several powerful and affordable alternative CRMs better suited for smaller businesses.

Know what makes your customers tick and you can compel them to do anything.

2. Neglecting your copy

In copywriting, there is always room for improvement. You’re never really done perfecting quality copy. To continually improve and achieve better results, you need to keep testing, editing, practicing, and trying new things. Unfortunately, you can’t do that if you fall into these two issues. 

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Outsourcing to save money

How much is it worth to save pennies on your sales copy if you lose even one sale because it’s somehow deficient? Five sales? Ten? A hundred…? It’s hard to estimate lost opportunity cost until you have good copy to test against, but if you never invest in a good copy, the world may never know. As mentioned above, your copy must be uniquely tailored to a very specific prospect that you have in mind. You can picture them and imagine a conversation with them, you’re their best friend and you understand them. 

An outsourced talent doesn’t have that. He may be able to throw something together based on your descriptions, and if he’s good, he’ll craft copy that may influence your customer. But using cheap labor to communicate your message to prospects is at best dubious.

Quantity over quality

The objective of your copy is very specific. The bare bones of sales copy are minimal and direct, the principles are few but very powerful. That’s not to say that all copy needs to be short, in fact, some of the highest-grossing sales copy is over 10 printed pages long. However, if it’s between 10 pages of mediocre copy and half a page of good copy, the half-page will win every time.

Not because it’s short, but because the essentials are there. The most essential quality of your copy must be clarity. Not wittiness, not “punchiness”, clarity. The moment your prospect finds your copy confusing or irrelevant, he’ll be gone without a trace. If your copy is going to be one thing, it must be clear and simple. The rest is just details.

3. Talking about the wrong things

Talking about the wrong things is still possible even if you know your target audience. Here are some examples. 

Vanity copy

An easy trap to fall into when trying to influence your prospects is to start making everything about you. As if the buying decision was based on the person who’s selling and not the one who’s buying. Details like “we make everything in-house”, “we are nationally acclaimed”, “we take our job seriously” are nearly irrelevant to the buying decision a prospect makes when deciding who to patronize with his business.

Unless it’s for ideological reasons, your prospect doesn’t care about who you are as much as what you do for them. It’s simply a reality that humans are selfish little creatures, everything is seen through the lens of, “how will this benefit me?” If you spend your time trying to convince your prospect to choose you because of how great your company is, they’ll buy from the first of your competition that focuses on the customer, not themselves.

Product exposition instead of prospect conversion

This is perhaps the most common mistake of the lot. It’s not as blatant as vanity copy but still woefully misses the mark of high conversion copy. If your sales copy is geared toward telling your prospect about your product, you’ve fallen into this mistake.

Your prospect only cares a little bit more about your product than they do about you, but it’s still not #1 on their mind. This is often referred to as “features without benefits.” Your copy cannot discuss your product separate from its impact on your prospects’ life. Your prospect doesn’t care about the features of your widget except insofar as it will make his life better.

Your sales copy cannot be show-and-tell, it must be go-and-sell.

Too much and too little

If your copy is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter how short it is, you’ll lose. If your copy is relevant, it doesn’t matter how long it is, you’ll win. It’s simply a fact, people will read if they’re interested and they’ll dump you the second you lose their interest. 

There are two principles at play here:

Less is more

This is a general principle. If the thought could be expressed in four words instead of 10, go with the four. Oftentimes, condensing copy naturally results in having to choose more powerful and meaningful words which can only help your messaging.

The more you tell, the more you sell 

This principle governs specifically customer-centric copy. If you’re able to craft a story around your prospect targeting his hopes, dreams, fears, and doubts, etc, the more you can tell him, the more you will sell him. In essence, the more you can show how his life will be improved, the more he’ll want to consider what you offer.

4. Speaking the wrong language

We’re not talking about foreign languages here. Rather, focusing on your brand’s personality in your copy is vital. It should reflect your business and the expectations of your customers. Here are some issues that can cause you to “speak the wrong language”.

Devoid of humanity

Because so much of the sales process is now handled by apps, software, AI, or a faceless bureaucracy, many people forget that buying and selling is a deeply human interaction that, at the end of the day, is based upon the decision of individuals. When this fact is overlooked all of a sudden buying and selling ceases to be human and becomes impersonal, amorphous, and distant.

This can easily result in copy that poorly expresses your company to your prospect and fails to adequately represent your prospect to your marketing and sales teams. In the former example, it would be difficult for your prospects to justify buying from you if any of your competitors had a more human individualized expression. In the latter, it would be impossible to have a sufficiently detailed profile of your ideal prospect, you would certainly be losing money because of a lack of precision in your target marketing.

The best way to avoid this is to continually return to the basics. Whenever you’re writing an ad, a landing page, or an email campaign, remember that an individual is going to read it and they want to feel like an individual has written to them, not a vague large corporation. When you write, imagine that you’re sitting across from someone having a conversation with them. They express the problem that you solve and it’s your job to be their new best friend and explain how you can help them improve their life.

Too technical/shop talk

Another failure in language style is if the copy is more technical than it needs to be. Unless you’re an IT company selling to other IT experts, filling up space with technical details is often a waste and leaves the reader feeling confused and overwhelmed.

When it comes to technical language, unless you’re in a highly specialized niche, it’s best to follow the rule of thumb “ less is more”. Even the more universal jargon of advertising and marketing that we are all familiar with should be kept to a minimum unless your prospect is an expert in the field.

Part of the challenge and thrill of copywriting is taking complex ideas and terminology and boiling it down to the best possible expression for the prospect. It’s true that tasteful use of select jargon can indicate knowledge and credibility, but depending on your prospect, it can also come off as off-putting, or at the very least, confusing. Employ it at your own peril.

Selling apologetically

This final mistake is most common near the end of the sales process, failing to close the deal. This is sometimes called “selling from the heels”. In an effort not to hard-sell the prospect, there’s a lack of precision and of powerful and clear calls to action. Instead of saying, “here’s how this product will make your life better and here’s how to get it”, the salesman says “here’s our product, if you like it you can buy it. But you really don’t have to if you don’t want to.” 

If you truly believe that your product or service is something worth buying, you would be doing your prospect a disservice by not trying everything to help him get ahold of it. If your product or service will make his life better and you deprive him of that through poor salesmanship, then your competitor deserves his business more than you do.

There are three things to remember that will help you close a deal:

Shoulder all of the risk 

Remove all of the burdens from your prospect so that only a crazy man would refuse the offer.

Create urgency 

Offer a limited-time opportunity that will add value to your prospect’s life on top of what you’re already offering him. Throw in the kitchen sink if you have to, at this point in the selling process, the prospect is barely holding back, he just needs the last reassurance to make the move. 

Provide a fool-proof call to action 

Provide a simple, clear, and powerful call to action that will make the buying process fast and painless. (Don’t forget the opportunity for upselling…)

Nailing copy takes time and testing

Sales copy is an art, but there are certain aspects of it that are a science. Buying and selling are deeply rooted in human psychology. Having a firm grasp on the psychological elements of salesmanship allows you to craft a message whose principles are foolproof and timeless. Products and services may come and go. Old markets will disappear and new ones will be born. However, the principles of salesmanship will continue as long as human beings exist and exchange one good for another.

The next step is to avoid the most common errors that plague the vast majority of sales copy in existence. In doing so, you will instantly set yourself apart and open opportunities for enormous growth and success. Go out there and sell.

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Content Author: Johnathan Martinez

Johnathan Martinez has been a marketing consultant for over 5 years. He's managed marketing strategies for brands like Menchies, Pizza Hut, Dataquest, Baja Fresh, and many more. He likes to play chess in his spare time, pretend he knows how to cook, and watch cheesy romantic comedies.